History of the Titans
In March 1999, the Gold Coast Bid team was formed in an attempt to bring an NRL team back to the Gold Coast. Headed by Michael Searle, Managing Director of International Sports Australia and experienced rugby league administrator Paul Broughton, the bid team was active in lobbying the NRL to both expand the competition and consider the Gold Coast’s bid for inclusion.
In the six years that the Gold Coast Bid Team was established, they presented a compelling case to the NRL. The business plan was lauded by NRL board member and Sydney Roosters Chairman Nick Politis as the most comprehensive document ever seen in Australian professional sport. Ernst and Young and the Gold Coast City Council Planning and Economic department also reviewed the document favourably.
The Gold Coast hosted NRL trial matches from 2002-2005 and those served as the platform for conveying community support for a Gold Coast team to the NRL. National Rugby League Chief Executive David Gallop said at the time: “Trial games are an opportunity for people to vote with their feet. The response the Gold Coast gets to those games is certainly one of the things we would look at”.
With average attendances of over 16,000, and peak attendances topping 20,000, the NRL could not dispute the popularity of live rugby league on the Gold Coast. The consortium also secured investors who backed the team to the tune of $15 million. Ian Buchanan, the Gold Coast Titans’ Manager of Operations, Marketing and Media, has stated that this is ‘over and above’ the operating costs of a new club.
A significant hurdle facing the Consortium, and one that had to be overcome to secure the club’s licence - was the requirement for an upgraded stadium for the Gold Coast Rugby League team. The Bid Team lobbied Local, State and Federal Governments for funding to upgrade the outdated facility at Carrara. They were successful in securing this, but more importantly, were also able to gain a guarantee from the State Government for the construction of a purpose built facility at Robina – now known as Skilled Park.
In August 2004, the board of the National Rugby League met to consider licence applications from the three potential expansion franchises, Wellington, the Central Coast and the Gold Coast. In a decision that shook the Bid Team to its foundations, the board rejected all three applications.
Ultimately, this decision served only to galvanise the resolve of the Gold Coast Bid Team. The next morning, Michael Searle was back in the office, on the phone to the NRL determining just where his bid had fallen short. Acting on the subsequent advice, the bid team went about strengthening their proposal while the other contenders slipped away. It soon became apparent that this was a one horse race, and only the NRL board stood in the way of the Gold Coast’s inclusion into the NRL.
After more successful trail games in early 2005, speculation mounted that an NRL decision on expansion was imminent. Another board meeting at NRL headquarters on the morning of Friday May 27th 2005 proceeded a phone call from David Gallop to Michael Searle…telling him that “you’re in.”
The decision was made public in front of 20,000 fans at Gold Coast Stadium that evening, as the Gold Coast hosted another successful game, this time an NRL premiership fixture between the North Queensland Cowboys and Canterbury Bulldogs.
The Gold Coast Titans completed a vigorous recruitment drive for their inaugural season which secured the services of such established NRL stars as Preston Campbell (a former member of the Gold Coast Chargers), Scott Prince, Luke Bailey and dual international Mat Rogers. The Titans also secured an impressive portfolio of both local and national sponsors, further indicating the growth of the local commercial sector and the depth of interest in investing here.
In February 2007, the Titans played their first ‘unofficial’ game in Coffs Harbour - a pre-season trial against the Melbourne Storm. In front of 10,000 supporters the Titans rolled out their younger development squad players. They acquitted themselves magnificently before going down to a full strength Melbourne side.
In the following weeks, Titans Coach John Cartwright fielded his full strength team in two other pre-season trial matches. Taking on Parramatta at Lismore’s Oakes Oval, the Titans emerged victorious 26-10 and the following week in the team’s first appearance in front of their home fans on the Gold Coast, they ran out 28-6 winners over the Penrith Panthers.
The Titans’ historic first game in the 2007 NRL Telstra Premiership was played at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane against the St George Illawarra Dragons, with the team putting up a gallant effort before going down 20-18 in front of 42,030 fans.
The club’s first ever win came the following weekend in the Titans’ first home match against the Cronulla Sharks, with the Gold Coasters securing an 18-16 victory at Carrara Stadium.
The Titans finished the 2007 season with 10 victories to finish in 12th place on the NRL ladder – a credible effort for the team’s first season.
The 2008 season saw the Titans farewell Gold Coast Stadium at Carrara for their brand new home at Skilled Park in Robina. Fittingly, the state of the art stadium was built in Titans colours to signify the cementing of the team in the NRL.
The Titans opened the season in style with a first round 36-18 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys in front of a near capacity crowd. Titans winger Jordan Atkins had a dream start to the NRL that night, equalling a 66-year-old record for most tries on debut - crossing the line an impressive four times in the win.
The Titans showed blistering form at the beginning of the season, winning six of their first seven matches and were undefeated at home, winning seven from seven games at Skilled Park.
The streak gave them first place on the ladder in rounds six, seven and ten, however a broken arm to Captain Scott Prince while representing Queensland in game three of the State of Origin saw his season end prematurely and the Titans fall to a four game losing streak from which they struggled to recover.
They finished 2008 in 13th place but the year would serve as a strong foundation for future success.
The 2009 season began in similar fashion to 2008, with the Titans racing out of the blocks to register five wins from their first six matches. However, this time the Titans maintained their form throughout the 26 rounds of the regular season to finish the year in 3rd spot on the ladder with 16 wins.
The top-4 finish saw the Titans create history by qualifying for their first ever finals series and have the added advantage of a home final. However, the Titans were defeated in their historic first semi-final against the Broncos at Skilled Park by 40-32 before being knocked out of finals contention the following week in a 27-2 loss to a red-hot Parramatta outfit at the Sydney Football Stadium.
In 2010, the club backed up that effort to qualify for the finals with a 4th placed finish – which again granted the club a home final in the opening week of the playoffs.
The Titans kicked off their finals campaign with a convincing 28-16 win over the New Zealand Warriors to qualify for the club’s first ever Preliminary Final. The club went within 80 minutes of making the grand final before their run was ended with a 32-6 loss to the Sydney Roosters, who stormed into grand final contention with a late season surge.
In stark contrast to their previous two seasons when the Titans were renowned for making strong starts to the year, 2011 began with four losses from the club’s first six matches. It what was to prove a tough season, the Titans finished the year with only six wins and lost a final round match against Parramatta to finish with the wooden spoon for the first time in the club’s history.
The year would mark the end of an era for the club with the departure of inaugural squad members Preston Campbell, Anthony Laffranchi, Brad Meyers and Nathan Friend.
To fill the void, the club was able to snare the signatures of a handful of high profile recruits headlined by Jamal Idris, Nate Myles and Beau Champion as well as highly rated Bulldogs junior Aidan Sezer ahead of the 2012 season.
The other silver lining to the 2011 season was the emergence of several youngsters within the Titans ranks such as Under-20s hooker Matt Srama, playmaker Jordan Rankin, young forward Ben Ridge and winger/centre Dominique Peyroux.
The 2012 season started off with a bang, leaving the North Queensland Cowboys scoreless in an 18-0 victory in which new recruit Idris bagged two tries. However, five straight losses followed as the Titans new roster took time to gel together and establish combinations.
A 26-14 defeat of reigning premiers Manly at Brookvale in round seven proven to be a turning point for the Titans season, with the club winning seven of their next 12 matches.
After putting together three wins in a row heading into the final stretch of games, the Titans dream of a late surge towards the finals hit a speed bump when they narrowly lost to the in-form South Sydney Rabbitohs in round 22.
In the end, the club’s slow start to the year proved too difficult to overcome, with the Titans falling just short of a finals berth. However, the club’s form over the second half of the season, a new playing roster which appeared to be gelling and the recruitment of hulking representative forward David Taylor provided the Titans with plenty to look forward to ahead of 2013.